South Dakota Senate Republicans Deepen Marriage of Money and Politics

Republican leaders in Pierre want to deepen the marriage of money and politics in South Dakota says Ben Nesselhuf, Chairman of the South Dakota Democratic Party.

Senate Bill 93, which would allow corporations to make direct contributions of up to $10,000 to political action committees (PACs) in South Dakota, passed the Senate on Monday, February 7th, 29-6 with only one Republican joining the five Democratic Senators in dissent.

On the Senate floor, leading Senate Republicans said corporations already find loopholes to get around restrictions on political contributions.

“Getting rid of restrictions on money in politics is a lazy response to corporations who get around restrictions on money and politics,” Nesselhuf said.

Republican Senators including Larry Rhoden of Union Center, Stan Adelstein of Rapid City, and Bob Gray of Pierre highlighted specific ways that corporations already get around current campaign finance restrictions. Corporations can give dividends to employees who then pass them along to PACs as personal contributions. Corporations can also sponsor advertising on behalf of any candidate.

Nesselhuf characterized Republican support of this bill as analogous to the homeowner who fixes a leaky pipe by flooding the basement. “South Dakotans want fair elections free from the intervention of corporate money. Senate Republicans, including Larry Rhoden, may like wetting their beaks on the tide of corporate money in Pierre, but turning a leak into a flood will only drown out the voices of South Dakota’s citizens.”

Notes from testimony:

Senator Rhoden: “Under current state law PACs can only accept personal or non-corporate checks.”
“There are currently ways that – if you want to – you can find your way around campaign finance laws. I don’t believe it represents any expansion of their ability to circumvent current law.”

Senator Gray: “Right now they can do advertising with a PAC. Individuals can contribute through dividends from businesses.

Senator Frerichs: “Allowing a business to contribute to a PAC is basically a shield. Corporations do have the right now to participate. Movin South Dakota forward PAC may not have the best interests of South Dakota in mind. This bill gives PACs a shield.

Adelstein: “In order to give money from their corporation, they have to have the federal government take a % as a dividend.

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